Saturday, March 4, 2017

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

( "The Pope on Panhandling, Give Without Worry")

I have been told that I could not live in the city. That the homelessness that is pervasive would be too hard on me. That I cannot feel a personal pain for each suffering soul I pass on the street, that I cannot reach into my pocket for a dollar for every sad story, every difficult life. That to be living in the midst of these personal tragedies requires some distance, for the sake of my own well being. I understand the harsh reality and inevitable truth in that advice.

Several months ago I was in New York attending an annual memorial service honoring the mostly nameless who had perished in the streets of the city that past year. As I surveyed those gathered, I tried to determine who among the assembled were the homeless. Who would leave this room and return to a darkness I could never understand. And who looked at me, sitting alone, and saw what they believed was the face of a homeless person.

I listened to the speeches, some which recalled a friend or loved one and spoke of that person's humanity, dignity or grace. How could we not be impacted by their lives, how could we dare to feel somehow more entitled to life's bounties?
And yet I must admit my own failing. Far too often I pass by a fallen soul without a glance, a nod, a hello or a dollar. I tell myself I am too busy, it is too crowded, I cannot take my wallet out in public. I now apologize to each person I have treated with indifference or even worse, with deliberate inattention.

 I am sorry. You deserved better of me.


Anonymous said...

Well written and very moving. Apologies are heartfelt gestures that can help assuage our guilt but can you please describe, moving forward, what you're actually going to do in future when faced with these circumstances?


Robert said...

I have written a piece for Care for the Homeless and volunteered to give them whatever time, energy and expertise they require of me

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is beautiful.


Anonymous said...

I often agonize over giving handouts. Thanks for setting matters straight.